Elena Urlaeva – one of the Strong Women of Uzbekistan

by Pressenza Hong Kong, October 6, 2015 

Uzbek Elena Urlaeva, drugged, beaten and detained by police

Workers in the cotton fields of Uzbekistan

(Image by


Dear people,

Drugged, beaten and detained by police — this was
the fate of activist Elena Urlaeva who dared to document state-sponsored
forced labour in the cotton fields of Uzbekistan this May.1

In Uzbekistan, the whole country suffers at the time of the cotton harvest. The government operates the world’s largest state-run system of forced labour
that sees teachers and doctors removed from their roles to work in the
fields for up to two months each year and pensioners forced to pick
cotton or else submit 50% of their pension.2 Anyone who tries to speak out, like Elena, is brutally repressed.

What’s worse is that international institutions like the World Bank are helping Uzbekistan keep its dirty secret.3 Right now they are funding projects in Uzbekistan that are documented to be using forced labour.4

The good news is that the World Bank signed a contract agreeing to suspend loans if evidence of forced labour was uncovered.5 Now we need your help to hold them to this promise.

Once again this year, announcements calling “everyone to the cotton
fields” were heard echoing around the countryside of Uzbekistan. The only way we can stop this from happening again is by hitting the Uzbek government where it hurts – its pocket.

Together with the Cotton Campaign, we’re calling on the World Bank to
account for its actions in propagating Uzbekistan’s forced labour
regime. By this action, we’re showing that the international community
will not accept or fund this state-sanctioned form of modern slavery.
However, without huge public pressure, the World Bank may turn a blind
eye — please don’t let this happen:

In solidarity,

Zoe, Vicky, Joanna and the Walk Free team